Big Finish Release (United Kingdom):
Released July 2018
Running Time: 5 hours
The Time War continues in the latest Eighth Doctor boxset from Big Finish, and it is another effort that showcases just how good Big Finish continues to be when the passion is there. I get the sense that the Monthly Range doesn't have the same passion and excitement it once had from those working on it, while the bigger scope and chance to truly expand on a topic that comes with the boxsets still has a flame of passion ignited. Admittedly, I don't listen to the Monthly Range as much as I used to, so I could be wrong, but this just seems to be an impression I can't shake. But this boxset keeps my hopes for the company continuing to release exciting stuff for some time alive.
****THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS****
In The Lords of Terror, The Doctor takes Bliss to her homeworld, but they find it has already been ravaged by the time war. Instead of the home, Bliss remembers, her city is now encased in a dome, and it seems to be a dystopian nightmare. While the front story is that the Daleks attacked and they have protected themselves and are building a retaliation rocket in order to wipe out the Daleks, the Doctor soon discovers that it is even more nefarious. I rather loved what this story does with the Time War arc. It seems that the Time Lords are actually behind this plan, and they haven’t created one dome and one rocket, they have turned the entire planet into a missile production plant, with every city put into a dome and forced into slavery to create a rocket...all in the name of winning the war.
The second episode (Planet of the Ogrons) has the Doctor and Bliss recruited by the the Twelve (a regenerated and more stable version of the Eleven), and an Ogron who believes himself to be the Doctor. They head to the Ogron homeworld, where a mad genius Dalek with hybrid DNA is performing crazy genetic experiments. While I certainly enjoyed this episode, it felt slightly less engaging after the killer of an opening episode. That said, it does still have a lot of fun to offer.
For the third story, In the Garden of Death, we have the very familiar trope of the Doctor and friends locked up in jail with missing memories. I feel like the Eighth Doctor has been in this predicament before. Despite the well-worn territory, it isn't half bad. I like the places it takes the Twelve, and the idea that while in the prison camp no one can remember their captors, and only when taken for interrogation do they recall the Daleks. But I'd be lying if I didn't admit that though I only just listened to the story, much of it has already faded from my brain. It is certainly an enjoyable listen, it just doesn't leave much of an impact.
Jonah closes out the set, and it is a tense submarine thriller in which the Doctor is Captaining a sub in a body of water in which no time travel can take place...and beneath the waters a mythological creature that can see every possible outcome of the future, and that is a beast that neither the Daleks nor the Time Lords should get their hands on. I rather liked this story and felt it was a great closer to the set, and it is about as strong as the opening story, at least more so than the two stories that bridge them.
While I can't say that the second and third stories are perfect, they are still rather engaging and fun, and with opening and closing stories that really are top notch, it is rather easy to recommend this set. I don't even want to come down to hard on the two lesser stories, because I still think they work in the long run. Even so, no matter what the first and fourth episodes are really great episodes of Doctor Who, and McGann is giving his usual quality performance throughout the set. Julia McKenzie should also get special notice for her turn as the Twelve, doing a great job running with what Mark Bonnar began as The Eleven.
I have a soft spot for anything McGann or the Eighth Doctor, but I also think this set is worth the continued exploration of the Time War (and the weird ramifications of such a strange type of war), and Big Finish always put their all into these box sets, even the weaker stories have something to offer. Recommended.